Once COVID Hit, Things Got Worse

"Thirteen, thirteen is when it started; thirteen is when I got drunk for the first time, thirteen is when I smoked my first joint, thirteen is when I started engaging in criminal activity, and it was 13 when I first thought about suicide. Like the chicken and the egg, I am not sure what came first. Did I use to ease an unwell mind, or did my extensive use cause the mental anguish? My mother and father had a very unique relationship; I never once seen them show each other any sort of affection, yet here I am. We are all miracles.

Once I started drinking and using nothing else mattered. The world took on an edginess not quite hostile yet not at all inviting in terms of the mainstream, and it was around that time that I developed this idea that it was every man for himself, and I probably will not live to see 40. I found a group of friends that were a lot like me, and one by one we all stopped going to school and spent our days roaming the streets of Toronto stealing, drinking, and experimenting with various psychedelics and solvents. We used to hang out on the rooftop of a 20 story building in the north end of Malvern, the neighbourhood I grew up in. One day I went up there to find Jeff, Mike, and Jason sniffing glue the dirty plastic bags expanding and retracting with each breath. Jeff decided he had enough, so he got up said his goodbyes and started walking off the roof as if he was walking down a path. We were able to tackle him away from the edge and get him home, and eventually he was admitted into the psych ward at the hospital.

When I was 15 two things happened. I went to jail for the first time, and I went through major surgery at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital were I was introduced to morphine. One thing that sticks out to me from those days is that I never felt like I fit into my family. I knew they loved me, and they were good people, but I felt I could never tell them about the sexual abuse from my cousin and neighbour, or the abuse my sister went through from my uncle. We never talked about our issues and as a matter of fact it was important to my mom for us to appear functional and okay especially when we were around the extended family. I also hated feeling anything except what I got from substances and the artificial bonds we formed through our common aspirations of getting f***ed up. There were times when I was alone and sober and feeling as if I do not belong in this world, yet I was to afraid take my own life. I just wished the world would end. I spent the next couple of years losing jobs and going to jail. Twice I was put on suicide watch while I was in jail because I refused to eat, yet never once did I acknowledge to anyone the sadness, emptiness and hopelessness I felt inside. I eventually went to Vancouver in an attempt to escape, but like the saying goes “everywhere I go there I am.” My drug use got worse once I got introduced to heroin and cocaine, and as a result; I went back to Toronto with an opiate addiction I carried with me for ten years.

I came to Medicine Hat in May 2001. By the end of the year I had spent 3 months in the remand centre and 1 month on the psych ward. By 2002 the woman I was seeing was pregnant with my first daughter, so we got married and I went back to school. By the time my second daughter was born I had another criminal charge and my marriage had fallen apart. I started using crack cocaine and got into a relationship that ended with a suicide attempt and another trip to the psych ward. It just kept on and on. I would lose everything feel hopeless fight my way through the darkness build up my life then lose it all again. This went on for years. I was not really allowed to see my kids and even if I could I was selfish to the core. All I could think about was escaping, running, hiding from it all.

One night after being awake for about a week straight I heard this voice say “You need to kill yourself. You need to end it. There is no point anymore” This voice was quite persistent, and very convincing, but there was another voice that said “You just need some sleep just go to the hospital and get some Valium.” So of course I listened to the voice that was telling me to go to the hospital and get more drugs. I showed up in emerg and put on my most sincere persona the one I usually reserved for when I was begging family and friends for money and told the nurse I have been up all week smoking crack and now I want to go to sleep, and I was wondering if I could get Valium or something. The doctor and social worker gave me a choice either go home and die or go to detox. I chose detox and from there I chose treatment and from there I choose recovery.

Recovery changed everything. It showed me that it is not every man for himself that we are in this together, it taught me there was a way to live happy joyous and free from drugs and alcohol, and it taught me the joy one could feel from acts of selflessness and service to a greater good. I learned how to start taking responsibility for my life. I learned about selfishness, self pity, and the effects my behaviours have had and still have on people. That void I had was being filled something much greater than drugs and alcohol, and I was making real honest friendships. I went back to school and got a degree in social work, got pardoned for my crimes and found a great job. I had some ups and downs I bought a house with my partner at the time broke up and sold the house within a year. For 11 years I managed my depression alongside of my sobriety never spending to much time in the darkness, and always using the tools given to me in recovery to get back to the light. I met a woman that was everything I ever dreamed of. We fell in love I moved into her place, but after a year we started drifting a part. I found one of my clients dead and a week later another one passed away. I started feeling alone again even when I was with my family something I had not felt in recovery. Once COVID hit, things got worse. I felt trapped and isolated. It got tense in our home, and my partner decided to end the relationship, so I moved out and started over again. I became depressed and ashamed, and angry. I felt unlovable. Each day I went to work pushing and pushing through the grief and sorrow and loss not eating and barely sleeping. I tried everything I ever learned in recovery to climb out of the darkness, but I kept falling further and further down the hole. Here I was 12 years sober and a social worker feeling so ashamed and so scared because all I could think about was ending my life. It is important to note that I did not want to kill myself, but It was all I could think about as if my mind was plagued. I felt like I had lost complete control over my thoughts. When I was alone I cried all the time and prayed for some sort of relief, and when I was with my friends I tried to pretend everything was okay. Through all of this the one thing I can say is that I did not want to use or drink not once. About a month ago it all became to much for me to handle. I texted a friend out of desperation wondering what I should do, and she suggested I call my doctor immediately. I was hesitant because I figured he would want to put me on medication. I prided myself in the belief that I did not need any medication since getting clean and sober. A belief that turned out to be wrong. The doctor immediately connected me to a psychiatrist and sent me to the hospital in Lethbridge. Within ten days of being in hospital and on an anti-depressant I started to feel good. Actually better than good. I felt hopeful, I felt loved, and I felt supported. |For me medication was the missing piece. The medication did not stop the negative thoughts, but it made them much more manageable, so I can eat and sleep properly, and so I can be of service and live life on life's terms. I have since found out that 3 of my closest friends are on anti-depressants, and all 3 are either in recovery or are social workers. I am starting to feel whole again, so I wanted to reach out here and say you are not alone especially you professionals."

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